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Ecuadorian ambassador calls for Koreans' financial support for quake relief

The top Ecuadorian envoy in Seoul made a desperate appeal Friday for Koreans' financial support to help his country emerge from the devastation caused by last week's massive earthquake and ensuing aftershocks that claimed nearly 600 lives.

During a press conference, Ecuadorian Ambassador Oscar Herrera Gilbert underscored the severity of material damages and human casualties, and the pressing need to secure relief supplies such as tents for more than 25,300 people displaced by the quakes.

"Your support is critical in sharing the sadness that gripped Ecuador," the somber-looking ambassador wearing a black suit told reporters, highlighting the longstanding bilateral relationship that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

"We (Ecuador) offered aid to South Korea during the Korean War. More than a half century later, we are now calling on you to extend your helping hand."

On Saturday, the Latin American country was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that left 587 people dead, 155 unaccounted for and 8,340 injured, according to the latest report from the Risk Management Secretariat of Ecuador. Since last week's earthquake, more than 630 aftershocks have occurred.

Given that Ecuador is far away from Asia, the best and fastest way to help the country is to offer assistance in the form of cash, the ambassador said, while expressing appreciation for the Seoul government's decision to offer US$700,000 in aid to Ecuador.

With the work of rescuing survivors from the rubble almost completed, the country is now in the "second phase" of obtaining relief supplies such as large tents, sleeping bags, portable or rechargeable lamps, sanitary facilities and medicines, the ambassador said.

"There is no more need for equipment and teams to rescue and evacuate victims," the embassy said in a press release. "Now, Ecuadorian missions abroad have to focus their efforts in order to obtain supply contributions and have to start their work for the third stage (of reconstruction efforts)."

To collect monetary contributions, the Ecuadorian embassy has opened a temporary bank account at Korea Exchange Bank. (Yonhap)